If you're a kid and you're hoping for a book that may not resemble Harry Potter but have some sort of adventure/mystery inside, forget it, this book is not for you! It's for MATURE READERS only!!!
I don't know what to say.
I honestly don't know what to say.
I had received this book hours before. I had been so giddy and excited that, at the very moment I reached home, I immediately opened the book and proceeded reading.
I have just finished it.
To put it plainly, I was disappointed. Beyond disappointed. I felt like the ground beneath me had just fallen apart.
Now, first of all, before you start saying anything, I had prepared my mind and heart that this book would be different from the Harry Potter series. I KNEW it would be different. It's adult for Pete's sake; it's BOUND to be different from a children's book. I have accepted it and moved on. I had always liked dark comedy and I thought I'd enjoy this, especially with the author being J.K. Rowling.
Well, I was wrong.
It had started out innocently enough. Barry Fairbrother, the most decent character in the entire book, drops dead at first chapter. The whole town has mixed feelings about his death: his family and friends were horrified and were in tears, his enemies delighted, and the neutral ones saddened that they will not be able to hear any of Barry's jokes anymore. Then it's all about what happened after Barry's death, how the town copes after a loss like his, and the lives he touched slowly unraveling one by one. You can say the whole story revolves around Barry.
Seems interesting, in a slice-of-life, tragedy way.
But it isn't.
To be fair, the characters were well fleshed out and given their own stories although I would have liked to know more of Barry's children, Vikram, and most of all, Paul. But the characters were given enough time to share their own thoughts, their feelings, and their beliefs. You can totally feel like you too have known all your life.
The setting was described properly too. I can picture the little town of Pagford so clearly in my mind's eye. I can imagine myself living there albeit not happily.
But it had a lot of problems those two points cannot make up for:
1. It was too slow. Slow is fine, but the plot has to pick up or the readers will die of boredom!
2. The idiocy of some of the characters was grating me. Indeed, they were well fleshed out; I almost know them as well as I know my classmates in college. But I know TOO MUCH about them if you get what I mean. There is a huge lack of common sense displayed.
3. The constant use of swear words and mention of sex was nauseating. Yeah, yeah, this is an adult book. It's normal to see these two in adult books. But J.K. Rowling should have taken into consideration that fans of her previous books would go through culture shock of having to read such things. She could simply hint the sex scenes you know; we're not stupid, we can understand that they were having sex. And we get that people can be foul-mouthed but having to make the characters say a bad mouth in every five pages is very tiring.
I had been done my best to be as unbiased as possible. I'm not grading this book with any of the hurt I feel from having my expectations promptly destroyed by my very eyes. If there is any slight hint of bias, I'm sorry. I had adored the concept of Hogwarts; it had sustained me whenever I was lonely as a kid.
That's my thoughts on The Casual Vacancy. I would love to sell the book but I might as well keep it as a reminder that one shouldn't expect so much from their favorite authors.
Not even one like J.K. Rowling.
The reason this is not one star or even zero star is because of the good writing on the characters and the setting. Nothing more.
My heart is broken. Allow me to contemplate on it and go to sleep (yeah I stayed up late just to finish this damn book, it's 4 in the morning here and I have an exam tomorrow).
Update: many hours later
I finally finished an exam (one out of, what, eight?) and I'm more relaxed. I decided to re-read my review and realized that, in my haste to unleash the initial feelings of disappointment, I have failed to mention that I honestly felt sad of how it ended and sincerely liked some of the characters.
Andrew was the standard teenager suffering from verbal abuse (and the occasional physical abuse) at home. His desire to impress Gaia was realistic, if not a tad unhealthy. Paul, his younger brother and my favorite character in the book, may be insignificant but his innocence in the dirty, depressing atmosphere The Casual Vacancy gives was terribly refreshing. Fats' strange obsession annoyed the heck out of me, but it did fascinate me in a way. (I still didn't like him though.) Sukhvinder's low self-esteem due to her demanding mother and the harsh words of her classmates was something almost all of us can relate to, although quite a bit of us don't start cutting ourselves to "ease our pain". Krystal, oh poor misguided, foolish Krystal, had only wanted to have a happy home where she and Robbie will be safe. She had been willing to get pregnant if that's what it takes to have one. She was indeed stupid but you can truly see she loved her brother Robbie and would do anything to protect him. And in the background, there was Barry. Kind, understanding, funny, warm, and mischevious Barry Fairbrother. Why did you have to die?
I am more satisfied with my review now.